Monday, February 21, 2005

Pitt Rivers Museum

I'm having a relatively busy day, but I came across this link while I was trying to have some new thoughts. It's a virtual tour of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, one of the many things I miss about not living in England any more. For us here in Ireland, history is most often something intangible though paradoxically always in the here and now. One of the reasons that the English often seem perplexed by this is symbolised by this wonderful room: for them history is all sorts of junk piled up together: it's an ethnology of artifacts rather than a narrative of archetypes.

The Pitt Rivers is a marvellously eccentric pile of stuff hidden in a room at the back of the University's Natural History Museum. The collections are hugely important, but the aesthetic heart of the place is in its seeming chaos. Like England itself, it's an imperial junkyard, and all the richer for it.

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